I have to start my column this week admitting that I’ve got some hat to eat. In a recent column, I noted that the fact that the show season had come to a close was a solid reason to not expect much in the way of new information on Star Wars: The Old Republic for a little while yet, and clearly, that wasn’t true.
While the major show season is over, Electronic Arts puts together an annual Winter Showcase in London (which slipped my mind somehow!), and surprised many fans last week with the revelation of Star Wars: The Old Republic’s crafting system and details on the previously announced Warzone system, including information on the Alderaan Warzone, which was announced at this year’s E3.
This week we’ll be talking about the warzones. Warzones are one of several PvP components to be featured in Star Wars: The Old Republic and they most closely resemble World of Warcraft’s Battlegrounds or Warhammer Online’s Scenarios. Warzones are instanced PvP scenarios that pit an equal number of players on both sides against each other. For those of you who have been playing MMOs over the past few years, you’re probably saying, “So what?” right about now, and at least on a surface level you’d be right to be unimpressed, or at the very least, unsurprised.
There are, however, some subtle but key differences between your typical BG and a SW:TOR Warzone. Like many of the other features of Star Wars: The Old Republic, Bioware is looking to leverage their cinematic storytelling strength with Warzones as well. This was hinted during a brief clip of the Alderaan Warzone shown behind closed doors at E3 earlier this year, but things are now a good deal clearer.
The various Warzones the game will ship with won’t be designed simply as different venues to complete standard fare objectives or kill each other pointlessly; instead, each Warzone will follow a narrative with unique objectives and mechanics to go along with it. The Alderaan Warzone will pit teams of eight players against each other in a bid to control Alderaan’s planetary defenses. Players will drop in via dropships and enter dramatically mounted upon speederbikes, as the trailer released last week revealed. The objective is to secure a number of anti-aircraft guns and then ultimately fire a large cannon at the enemy’s capital ship. The first side to down the enemy ship wins.
Speaking of the trailer released last week, the folks at DarthHater put together a dissection that points out a few interesting, if subtle, tidbits revealed in the trailer. In one slide, they speculate that players will be able to undertake quests within Warzones, noting the grayed out Empire objective symbol over what appears to be a quest givers head. Other noteworthy observations include hints that companions may be involved in Warzones, a few scenes involving the Assassin Advanced Class, and the confirmation of Zabrak as a playable race for Jedi Knights.
Overall, I’m pretty satisfied with what I know about Warzones so far. Injecting story just enough into the game’s PvP features to make the scenarios fought over fit within the context of where your player is in the overall storyline and the events going on can only be a good thing. Fighting over flags was getting a bit old, I must admit. And while the Warzone feature itself isn’t revolutionary, it’s nice to see it spiced up in a way that is fitting of Bioware’s strengths as a developer. The only real concern I have at the moment is that the first Warzone revealed was in an eight vs. eight configuration. I’m hopeful that Bioware will put together a number of Warzones of different scale and scope, ranging from the smaller eight vs. eight, to hopefully some truly epic fights involving 16 or more players on each side. I’m also curious to find out what role, if any, companions will player in Warzones. I’m not sure I’d want to deal with every player’s “pet” while also trying to deal with the player himself, so I’m a bit wary of the idea. However, the folks at DarthHater make a pretty compelling argument for companions being in Warzones (there are slides featuring 10 characters charging into battle in an eight vs. eight Warzone), but I’m not convinced until I hear it from the horse’s mouth.
So, what are your thoughts on the Warzones feature given what we know so far? What do you think of the possibility of companions being involved in PvP? And finally, do you have any of your own ideas as far as what Warzones you’d like to see in the game? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below!